Fact one: day or night, someone on the ministerial staff is always on call for pastoral care calls and conversations. Each minister takes a two-week pastoral care shift, speaking with congregants facing struggles: a job loss, a tough medical diagnosis, a troubled child, the death of a parent – any challenge, really, crying out for compassionate listening in a safe, private space. This is what our ministers do.
Fact two: Intern minister Kim Mason’s workspace is in the “gopher hole”. That’s what the staff calls the space directly behind the front desk in the JUC office. It’s populated by tall file cabinets, an L-shaped desk space, two computers, one telephone and three staff members. Phone calls? Awkward. Private conversations? Impossible.
You can see where this two-fact story is going. Kim was on pastoral duty several times during the year, and had to be creative to find a place for those safe and private conversations. Sometimes she’d find an empty classroom and close the door. Sometimes she’d take her cell phone to one of the wrought iron tables on the patio. Sometimes she could borrow a private office. She remembers only one time when she actually sat at her gopher hole desk for a pastoral conversation, and that was at the end of the day when all the rest of the staff had already gone home.
“I know this seems like a small problem,” Kim says, “but it demonstrates where some of our space pinch points are.” Revs. Wendy and Eric have private offices, and DRE Annie Scott has a tiny space to herself. Every other staff member is doubled or tripled up. Also, Kim points out, JUC doesn’t have a dedicated space for private conversations – not only for a pastoral call, but also for wedding planning or memorial planning. A classroom, she says, doesn’t feel like a very comfortable space for a grieving family.
What does this have to do with Making Room? If and when we find a new and larger campus, these are a couple of things for the checklist: adequate office space for staff, and a dedicated intimate, private space for safe and sacred conversations.